How to Organize a Blog Tour

Here's the thing, 'Hidden New Jersey', which I illustrated and is published this month is a book about another state. I live in Maine. It's a fair way to New Jersey. I don't have a lot of money available for big launches and travel.

I wanted to help with promotion ... but to be frank, I live in a very rural area of Maine, there are limited resources and limited opportunities to promote. And it's a hard sell ... a book about Maine will draw some people to book store signings - but a book about a state outside New England? NOT so easy.

This is not a huge book and the publisher had limited resources for it.

The answer for me FIRST was a BLOG TOUR. Like a book tour, but in virtual space. There are all sorts of sites out there to help you set one up, but here's what I did:

 One of the most fun things about the blog tour was that Simon and Schuster illustrator, Debbie Ohi,
 created this fun sketch for her blog interview with me! Thanks Debbie!

I have, over the last couple of years, built up contacts with a good network of writers and illustrators who blog. So where better to start? I put a post on Facebook /Twitter/Google/SCBWI listserv asking for anyone who would be interested in taking part in my virtual book tour.  To my surprise I got quite a few takers.

Next I drafted an email to all of them with details about my book, a press release from the publisher, a PDF copy of the book, links to my website, the book trailer I created and email for the author so that they could ask her questions to. (I let her know first!)

I also sent high res jpegs of the book cover, me and a couple of images from the book if required.

I asked bloggers to schedule a date during the month of promotion (so they wouldn't all get clumped together). I also asked if they would be interested in doing a giveaway on their blog, which most took advantage of. It's a great way for them to get people to their blogs too ... a good deal for both of us.

Most of the bloggers sent me questions to answer as part of the review.  I didn't send back standard answers - it was more fun and more interesting to answer individually and if people read the different interviews, they would find out something new each time. Anyway, it seemed like courtesy to me.

I did approach some of the bigger blogs, and was happy that a few of them took me up on reviewing the book. Although I didn't do a giveaway on these blogs, the exposure was invaluable. With the bigger review blogs you have to dig some times to find the info to submit your book ... and some require you to send a physical copy. Some big blogs only review books that they are personally interested in and specifically do not want submissions, and some only from the publisher themselves.

I kept my publisher's marketing contact at Charlesbridge informed of activities and that they complimented what they were doing. They were happy to send review copies to many of the bloggers, which then were used as the giveaways on the blog. A couple of the bloggers were international so I sent the winners of the giveaway copies directly. (we made France and Australia!)

Make sure you keep a note of everyone you contact - believe me after a day of looking at sites, you forget. Also you will want the info for the next go around. As the blog  reviews came online I re-posted them on all my social networking sites/blogs giving both the book and the blogger exposure. I made sure I kept a calendar and chased up giveaways etc and to say thanks to the blogger! Several of the bloggers also posted reviews to Amazon/B&N for me, which was wonderful.

In all I was interviewed on about 17 blogs - here are some of the links:

It was a great experience and one I will definitely repeat at in the future! Thanks to all my great bloggers and reviewers! (HUGS)

I set up a Facebook Page for the book. In the 2 weeks run-up to publication day I posted trivia questions about the book, (which I then cross posted). I also shared info about the book, the author and illustrations. When the blog tour started I posted the links and info about winners. I invited people to join the page, and posted the link on other FB pages that talked about New Jersey. I also joined other groups about New Jersey and posted the links to the book and trailer. My lovely friends on Facebook/Twitter were kind enough to share the links also. It was fun to see people from NJ and elsewhere joining the page!

I contacted all the usual local media and then I got online and emailed newspapers and radio/tv stations in New Jersey. I liaised with the author and publisher on these to see what they were doing. The response wasn't huge (hey it's not Snookie!), but several newspapers wrote articles on the book and this is still ongoing.

I have applied for a couple of book festivals in New Jersey and am waiting to see if I have been accepted. It would be fun to go down to the state and meet with folks who know the places I illustrated, and meet up with the author!

Free and the best publicity. I have done a talk locally about the process of making the book and have another planned next month. This is great because it does not focus solely on the book, but is more a general talk about what I do, showcasing the illustrations from the book. Always give out information about yourself, with perhaps a bio and list of your books with ISBN numbers and where they are available. I expect to continue promoting the book this way in 2012 and there are plenty of organizations I can talk to in the communities.

Because this book is heavily involved in geographical and historical facts, I am looking at producing a program that schools can utilize when they are looking at the States as part of their curriculum. I may use the help of a professional in working this program out, and it's something I want to do in the new school year. It would have been nice to be ready for the launch of the book ... but I feel it will be relevant later on as part of a program I can offer. Sometimes you can't do everything at once!

So - none of this cost me very much to do, except for  my time. I feel that this book is a kind of slow burn deal ... because it will always be relevant I hope to be able to keep promoting it at various times throughout the year. For example to museums and historical sites in the state itself, as well as out of state.

Here's what I learned: I should have started thinking about this earlier. Be more prepared ref bloggers and reviewing. Think about how this is relevant to the local community around you and how you can share. As it is I am tackling that in retrospect. It's not all about book signings and book festivals. Make it relevant. I will be more aware of what I can do outside the main stream (no pun intended!) with my next project.

I want to say thank you to Jeannie Brett, local Maine author and illustrator who shared her knowledge with me and has a book out about New Jersey this spring also!


On the bedside table:
This week I have been looking at the illustrative work of Matt Phelan. So  I have a ton of books. I love his style, it is free and yet intimate.